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Gene-editing technology may cure deadly diseases

September 13, 2017
Infection Control
From the September 2017 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

In simple terms, CRISPR is one part of the bacteria’s immune system, which stores fragments of bad viruses so it can later recognize and defend itself the next time that virus attacks. The research is already showing promise in combating antibiotic-resistant infections along with cancer and other major diseases. Early tests have shown laboratory mice surviving antibiotic-resistant infections that would have otherwise killed them. The mouse genome is similar to a human’s, but mice reproduce every three weeks, which allows scientists to monitor several generations in a short period of time.

This innovative technique for cutting and pasting genes has already created revolutionary results this year alone, including:
• Scientists have successfully removed HIV from a living organism using CRISPR, and removed both acute and latent infections.
• CRISPR was successfully used to target genes that can trigger abnormal tumor growth, and actually shrunk prostate and liver cancer cells in mice.
• Targeting the protein called Tudor-SN with CRISPR shows promise in inhibiting fast-growing cancer cells.
• Researchers have now been able to modify the genes to protect themselves from superbugs. This alone shows promise with multidrug-resistant organisms that could be cured with modifying DNA.

These early successes due to CRISPR-involved research have caught the attention of venture capital firms. They are investing millions of dollars at research centers across the world, attempting to be in on the next medical breakthrough. To secure the research, patent filings have exponentially increased. Patent holders would have the right to licensing fees, which may be worth a fortune, and promising innovation seems likely in many studies.

Thom Wellington
Will the innovations create other problems with changes to a DNA structure? The movie “Jurassic Park” offered a fictional glimpse at what can happen with DNA transformations. You may recall the cloning of a lamb called Dolly in 1996 by Scottish scientists. Luckily, researchers are currently only focused on mice, and say they can easily turn off a DNA change that gets out of control now that they have a tool that can program immediate changes rather than waiting for generations of mutations.

Everyone wants to see the advancement of science and medicine that benefits mankind. Research enhanced by tools such as CRISPR are moving us closer to medical innovation from internal DNA tweaking rather than solely relying on drug solutions. As humans, we carry genes that may protect us from one disease, but increase our susceptibility to others. Combining the advancements in pharmaceutical research with innovative biological engineering could produce cures to some of our worst ailments and diseases. CRISPR may be something we remember as the keystone in making miracle medical science.

About the author: Thom Wellington is the CEO and a stockholder in Infection Control University.
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